Arizona is going to get the lion’s share of a $15 million congressional appropriation to help states improve border security.
Gov. Janet Napolitano said Tuesday she learned that Arizona’s share of the funding will be $6.35 million. In contrast, California will get $1 million, with $1.5 million for Texas.
The cash is earmarked for overtime for police officers to deal with those who cross the border illegally.
But how much of those funds wind up in the hands of local agencies remains to be seen. An aide to Napolitano said decisions have yet to be made on how to divide up the cash — as well as whether any will be reserved for the state Department of Public Safety or for deployment of National Guard troops.
Napolitano also announced Tuesday that DPS is forming another unit of its gang and intelligence enforcement squad in Cochise County, with its primary focus in and around Douglas. She said there is a need for additional law enforcement because of border-related gang activity.
And Napolitano said she will use funds provided by the state Legislature for DPS officers to hire an additional 31 gang officers by the end of October, with an additional 10 no later than December.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said the help is needed.
“We have seen a pretty significant spike in the last year-and-a-half, two years, in gang activity,’’ he said, especially in the Douglas area. “A lot of it is related to illegal alien trafficking,’’ he said, not only in smuggling people across the border but also in stealing cars to help transport them to the north.
The sheriff said he believes if law enforcement can intercede now it can eradicate the problem before it becomes impossible to fight.
Dever said he has enough money to hire an extra rookie deputy, freeing up a veteran to work with the task force. Dever said Douglas police also are likely to contribute at least one officer.
DPS will come up with seven or eight officers, as well as the vehicles for the task force.
Dever said he also received assurances the state won’t do to him what it did a decade ago.
At that time, DPS put together a Cochise County unit of its gang task force to deal with problems of gangs in and around Fort Huachuca. But Dever said the resources — including his own deputy — later were moved to Yuma to focus on problems there.
Dever said he now has a commitment the unit will remain in Cochise County “until the problem is solved.’’